Alleged N17 billion ‘bribe’: Okonjo-Iweala tackles Gbajabiamila

Former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala [Photo credit: Instagram]
Former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala [Photo credit: Instagram]

Former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has chided a member of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, over claims that the former minister and her aides inserted their own projects into the 2015 budget.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, while clarifying the issues on her verified twitter handle on Sunday, said the lawmaker’s claims were inaccurate.

The minister had in her book, ‘Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines’, revealed the arm-twisting that characterised budget passage by the National Assembly during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

She made reference to a development in 2015 when the National Assembly leadership allegedly coerced the executive arm to part with an additional N17 billion before the year’s budget was passed.

In his reaction to the claim, Mr Gbajabiamila, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, said he was not aware that lawmakers took any ‘bribe’.

The lawmaker, who was the minority leader in the 7th Assembly, however said that lawmakers had a running battle with Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and her aides over the budget because they inserted their own projects to the detriment of some lawmakers. He added that the disagreement made lawmakers to demand that many projects be sited in their constituencies too.

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He, however, said that it was wrong for the former minister to tag it a ‘bribe’.

But in her reaction on Sunday, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said Mr Gbajabiamila’s claim that she and her aides injected their own projects into the budget was untrue.

She tweeted: “Those like Hon Gbajabiamiala trying to introduce lies that myself and my aides put in our own projects and lawmakers were fighting with me on that basis are playing their usual cynical games and Nigerians are tired of that!

“Lies obscure the country’s problems and do not allow us to improve. There were and there still are politicians in the national assembly trying to do the right thing. The book also points that out.

“Such well meaning legislators should not allow their strident colleagues to twist matters and divert attention from the need to improve the country’s budget process so our young people can see a better side of their country.”

She however said that she never described the N17 billion as a bribe, adding that “mischief makers are trying to distort” what she wrote in the new book. The N17 billion in question was an additional fund added to the lawmakers’ budget and not a bribe, she explained.

“In the case of the N17 billion, the book does not talk of bribe. It indicates that lawmakers increased the budget by N17 billion and we had to accept that to move on; hence, the term “price to pay,” she said.

“The reason for discussing what happened is that this approach needs to change. The country must clear up and clarify its budget process for the future to improve.”

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